Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Greenpeace sees case for legal challenge
January 11, 2008
Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group, is considering a fresh legal challenge to the government’s strategy of building nuclear power plants.
Ben Ayliffe, the group’s senior nuclear campaigner, said it was reviewing the evidence carefully and felt it could make a “very good case” that the latest consultation was a “sham” to disguise settled policy.
The government’s first attempt to replace Britain’s ageing nuclear capacity was torpedoed almost a year ago by the High Court.
Mr Ayliffe said Greenpeace lawyers were going through the nuclear energy white paper and other evidence before making a decision.
A focus of the analysis would be any statements by ministers – including Gordon Brown and his predecessor, Tony Blair – suggesting that the thrust of policy had been decided before the consultation took place, Mr Ayliffe said.
He pointed to Mr Blair’s decision on the day of the High Court judgment to rule out any change in nuclear strategy.
“It’s prejudging. Whoever has done this is in danger of landing the government in legal hot water.”
Greenpeace will also examine whether new proposals on nuclear waste disposal would involve the provision of potentially illegal subsidies to companies.
Some ministers have become more guarded in their statements about nuclear policy, suggesting that government legal advisers are keenly aware of the dangers.
Leading public law specialists agreed that ministers’ statements could be important. Paul Dacam, a partner at Lovells, the law firm, said last year’s High Court judgment had shown that simply going through the motions of consultation was not enough.